The US government is being lobbied to lead the development of so-called vaccine passports.

Leading airline and business groups are asking the Biden administration to develop temporary credentials that would let travellers show they have been tested and vaccinated for Covid-19.

The airline industry believes such a step will help revive travel.

Various groups and countries are working on developing vaccine passports aimed at allowing more travel.

The move came as China launched a health certificate scheme for domestic travellers, leading the world in plans for so-called virus passports, AFP reported. 

The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on local social media platform WeChat.

The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.

However, the international health certificate is available only for use by Chinese citizens and it is not yet mandatory.

The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is thought to be the world’s first known “virus passport”.

The US and UK are among countries considering implementing similar permits. The European Union is also working on a vaccine “green pass” that would allow citizens to travel between member countries and abroad.

China’s programme includes an encrypted QR code that allows each country to obtain a travellers’ health information, state media agency Xinhua reported Monday.

‘QR health codes’ within WeChat and other Chinese smartphone apps are already required to gain entry to domestic transport and many public spaces in China.

The apps track a user’s location and produce a “green” code – synonymous with good health – if a user has not been in close contact with a confirmed case or has not travelled to a virus hotspot.

The system has sparked privacy concerns it marks an expansion of government surveillance.

And airlines fear that differing regional credentials will cause confusion and none will be widely accepted.

“It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the US must be a leader in this development,” more than two dozen industry groups said in a letter to White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Jeff Zients.

However, they said that vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel, ABC News reported.

The groups include the main US and international airline trade organisations, airline unions and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The World Health Organisation and the United Nations’ aviation arm are working on the type of information to include in a credential.

The airline industry believe the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should take a leading role, believing that would increase certainty that information in the credentials is legitimate.

The CDC issued new guidelines on Monday for fully vaccinated people, saying they can — without face masks — meet other vaccinated people and visit unvaccinated people in a single household who are at low risk for severe disease. However, the health agency still recommends against travel.

“Every time that there is a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country,” said CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky.

Many variants of Covid-19 now spreading in the US, started in other countries, Walensky added.

However, she held out the possibility that with more data CDC might soon approve of travel by vaccinated people.

Airlines are counting on widespread vaccinations to boost travel, and for vaccine passports to give a boost to highly international flying.